Dear Grandparenting: My wife and I never thought we would have a grandchild until our daughter (and only child) somehow gave us a healthy baby boy at age 43 thanks to in vitro fertilization.
Right after my wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several months back. She might have four or five more good years ahead. The main thing on her mind is getting to know her grandson. She is dead set on “making sweet memories” for both of them.
My wife talks nonstop about her list of things to do with our grandson so he will hopefully remember her. I don’t really remember anything before I was four or five years old. How can my wife do better? Nelson Green, Walpole, Massachusetts
Dear Nelson: Here’s the word on childhood memory. You could spend hour upon hour with your new grandson, reading picture books, singing, exploring the outdoors and all matter of activities. And the little boy will remember practically nothing.
Young children do form memories early in life but they are soon forgotten. And while memory strengthens between ages two and eight, little is retained before age three.
Grandparents can improve the odds by talking with grandkids about their shared experiences, using detail and stressing the emotional impact of events.
The trick, say cognitive scientists, is involving the grandchild in the importance of shared experiences for both. Repeatedly returning to the event helps establish longer-term memories, since the childhood brain likes to absorb an event and then re-visit it, the better to make it matter and make it stick.
Grandparents who aspire to pass along something positive and lasting have another option. Infants develop feelings of trust early on. Help care for, comfort and celebrate a young grandchild — make them feel safe and secure — and they’ll form a favorable attachment. Being treated with love and patience enhances any grandchild’s future well-being.
Grand remark of the week
Tip Taylor from Kingsport, Tennessee enjoyed the handwritten note that granddaughter Cassie mailed to his wife Trisha.
“A Grandmother is like an Angel,” it read. “She takes you under her wing, prays and watches over you, and she would give you anything (almost)!”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.